Mental Health 50K Walk Honors Longtime Alameda Firefighter

Steve Jones The First Responder Mental Health Awareness 50K Walk was created to honor Edward Smith III, who took his own life in 2019.

Mental Health 50K Walk Honors Longtime Alameda Firefighter

Dozens of first responders and their loved ones took part in the second annual First Responder Mental Health Awareness 50K Walk on Jan. 8 and 9.

The two-day 50K, about 31 miles, was hosted by the Livermore-Pleasanton Firefighters Association. Participants began their trek at 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, at Fire House Station 6 in Livermore. They traveled to the halfway point in Castro Valley by midafternoon. The group started day two in Castro Valley and walked to AFD Fire Station 4, 2595 Mecartney Rd., Edward’s longtime home station.

The event was created by former Alameda Fire Department (AFD) deputy chief Steve Jones and Barney Smith, the son of a former firefighter. Their goal is to bring attention to the mental health struggles facing first responders.

Smith’s father, Edward Smith III, died by suicide in 2019. He was an AFD firefighter for 30 years before his death. Jones and Barney planned the event to honor Edward.

“It’s basically a group of firefighters creating a peer support group,” said Jones. “We’re trying to bring focus to suicides and mental health issues of first responders — police officers, firefighters, EMS and dispatchers.”
Jones said in a radio interview with KCBS that during his employment with AFD he knew five firefighters that took their own lives.

Jones has been a longtime advocate of mental health awareness among first responders. During his tenure as AFD deputy chief, he created the Critical Incidents Stress Debriefing (CISD) program. The program was designed to allow firefighters the opportunity to talk openly about the struggles of the job. Jones, who retired 18 years ago, said he initially received resistance from firefighters because they did not want to talk about their issues publicly. However, Jones said over the years he has seen a change in firefighters’ willingness to talk and receive help. Jones said local fire departments are starting similar programs.

“The more we talk about mental health struggles the better we can recognize if someone needs help,” said Jones.

The Livermore-Pleasanton Firefighters Foundation (LPFF) is a non-profit organization created to support injured and fallen firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, dispatchers and their families. The foundation supports the community by donating to local charities. LPFF also offers scholarships to those with a desire to work in public service.

Proceeds from the awareness walk were donated to LPFF. For more information or to donate to LPFF, visit

Maurice Ramirez    First responders and their loved ones took part in a 50K walk to raise mental health awareness last weekend.